Rocinante Gets Sharper Teeth

Crappy econo-box racecars, versions 1.0 and 2.0

The great and legendary Rocinante, my 2002 Hyundai Avante (Elantra), spent an entirely unacceptable 12 months in stock configuration. How I bowed my head in disgrace as beloved ancestors sneered at my pathetically stock ride.

“Bah,” my mother said. “These springs sag like your spirit. Your Rocinante rocks to and fro, mirroring the sloth and corruption of your soul. You bring shame to our family.”

“What wheels are these?” my grandmother asked. “The factory fitted them? Why must you dishonor us all to any passing stranger?”

Church ladies returning from worship, seeing me, spat in disgust. Small children, ceasing their play, wept piteously into their mothers’ arms upon Rocinante’s appearance. Pope Francis threatened me with excommunication, which is quite the feat since I’m not Catholic.

Regardless of the technicalities, it was clear I needed to restore honor to myself, my family and indeed the entire world. Follow me then as I enumerate the ways in which a frumpy and not very fun car like the 2002 Hyundai Avante (Elantra) can become a sports car killing ode to joy.

I haven’t actually installed them yet, but these are my wheels. The condition is pretty good, but, as to be expected when shopping used, there were a few dings. I masked everything off with copier paper because I’m just that ghetto. These are due for paint and then I’m going to unite them with a set of used slicks I got for free.

I originally wanted to stick with the 15 inch stock wheels in the interest of building a sleeper, but alas, that cannot be. I’m going to need a brake upgrade and the only cheap option I can find is to use Tuscani (2g Tiburon) aluminum calipers with Sonata disks. Unfortunately, that combo won’t fit inside my 15 inch stock wheels. By the way, I laugh every time somebody mentions spending $1,500 on a set of wheels. These were $300 and lighter than 90% of the 16 inch wheels you’re likely to find.  And yes, I do habitually pinch pennies until they scream.

One of the delights my car had demonstrated ever since I bought it was a constant clunking and rattling over bumpy roads. Upon disassembling the suspension, these are my suspected culprits.

Disassembly. Hyundai believes that OEM rear struts contain the spirits of our sacred ancestors. As such, they command that any wishing to disturb the ancestors must first placate the spirits with an extended interior disassembly ritual.

The front suspension came apart very smoothly. I think that Hyundai might use slightly better quality fasteners than Daewoo. Or maybe it was just the pimp hand tools I bought for the purpose making everything easier.

Also, these two pictures are identical in both spirit and intent. My blood-stained hands (actually grease, but whatever) totally performed a fatality on the original strut. Don’t mess with me, folks. I’m hardcore.


Tien coilovers with 10kg/mm springs up front and 12 kg/mm springs in the back. These came off of a Tiburon time attack car. I paid $250 bucks partly because I buy everything used and partly because I offer translation services to Korean race teams.

Do you see these strange dark spots on the coilover? I believe I am the first person in history to install performance coilovers on a car and then adjust them to maximum height. My vulgarity runs so deep I prefer proper suspension geometry to stance.


12310628_10206788132360871_3095182900837448353_nI’m flexing out the suspension on the curb here. This is about the maximum the car can handle before it lifts a tire off the ground.


This is how little the ride height changed. The car on the left is factory standard, mine is on the right. Unless you correct your geometry, lower is often slower.

We buttoned it back up with 1.5 degrees of negative camber at all four corners, 1mm toe in front, and 2.5mm toe in the back. As is my custom, the front sway bar now hangs uselessly from its mounts. The rear sway stick (seriously, it’s about the diameter of my pinky) remains intact, at least temporarily. Oh, and it’s still rocking the amazingly hard Pirellis it came on. 640 treadwear folks.

I don’t run sway bars for a number of reasons. The first reason is that they stop the suspension from being truly independent. This causes all sorts of side to side weirdness while cornering on bumpy roads.

The second reason is that swaybars convert the energy that would normally make the car roll into weight transfer. Since the coefficient of friction of tires decreases with load, extra side-to-side weight transfer decreases the maximum grip of the system. I don’t like to decrease the maximum grip of my cars.

Third, since I’m a vulgarian who values proper suspension geometry over slammed good looks, I’ve found that there just isn’t very much roll to control. Since the roll center of my car and center of gravity are close together, the roll couple is short. If I slammed the car and the roll center went underground (as is typical of lowered strut cars), then I’d certainly need big swaybars or ridiculously stiff springs.

You might think this is a minor point, but in my experience, proper roll center heights make a huge difference. On my Daewoo, I had similar body roll to the race prepped Tiburons my teammates ran, around 2 degrees. I had higher cornering speeds than they did as well, which means I should have been experiencing higher g force. However, because I had a high roll center I was able to get away with much softer suspension – 9kg front and rear for me with no swaybars. My teammates needed 12kg front, 14 kg rear springs and enormous aftermarket swaybars.

I have gotten similar results on the Avante thus far. Granted, those rock hard tires are keeping me from experiencing super high g force, but I’ve got practically zero body roll on a set up with no swaybars and 10kg/12kg springs. Moral of the lesson is this, if you keep your roll center high, I think you’ll find you can get away without swaybars and rock hard springs.

Anyway, the results thus far are very satisfying. The car has transformed from a wallowing mess of understeer to a razor sharp road weapon. Turn in is great, braking performance is more consistent and the maximum grip has taken a huge leap forward. Even on the crappy tires, my cornering speeds are about what you’d expect from a modern sportscar on summer tires.

The only complaint is that I put entirely too much toe in the back. We were worried the car would snap oversteer and, well, it doesn’t. I’m going to try and dial the progressive and predictable understeer out with toe and camber changes. Then it’s time for slicks and stupid cornering speeds!

I can hardly wait to strike terror into the hearts of Genesis Coupe drivers, kick ass at the autocrosses, starve the oil pump and lunch the engine!



If you enjoyed this article, please consider buying the author’s novel.

For customers living in East Asia.


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